Order for Second Reading read.
I beg to move "That the Bill be now read a Second time."
I have a Notice on the Paper, to move that the Bill be read a Second time upon this day three months.
I will deal with the point raised by my hon. and gallant Friend. This is a Bill to confirm an Agreement come to between the Post Office and the Pneumatic Tube Company in respect of a tube constructed 40 or 50 years ago between the General Post Office and Euston Station, by way of High Holborn and Tottenham Court Road. For 30 years that tube has not been used for the purpose for which it was intended, and it was almost forgotten. In the course of carrying out some underground works some local authorities, including the London County Council, have cut into that tube. In connection with the proposals contained in the Agreement, there is a fear felt by some of the local authorities that any right they may have obtained may be in some way jeopardised. I should like to give the House and my hon. Friend an assurance that we shall in no way interfere with any work which has been done by any of the local authorities, and that steps will be taken to divert our cables around any of these works. If we get this Agreement ratified by the House there will be a saving of £40,000. If we have to lay a new tube to carry the telephone cables, the difference between laying the new tube and laying the cables through the existing derelict tubes will be a matter of £40,000. It would also involve the intolerable nuisance of having to take up that very important and busy thoroughfare. If the local authorities feel that it is necessary, in spite of the undertaking I have given, that some Amendment safeguarding them should be included in Committee, I shall be perfectly prepared to discuss it with my hon. Friend.
I am very much obliged to the Postmaster-General for his statement, and it will not be necessary for me to detain the House by moving my Amendment. I believe that, on the whole, his proposal is one which can be quite readily accepted by the House, and from the business point of view the postal authorities are securing a very good bargain but I am bound to say that some of us were a little apprehensive in regard to a pneumatic tube which may be very badly punctured. We have run a pipe through it ourselves, and I believe there is a sewer through it, and that one authority has used it as a conduit for electric cables. It is hardly a pneumatic tube now, and could hardly he used as the original company proposed. We were a little apprehensive, notwithstanding our squatting rights—I believe we have been in possession of the derelict portion for 20 years—that we might be called upon to make good some of the damage done, although we committed that damage by Act of Parliament. I take it that the Postmaster-General has no intention of that kind, and I accept very readily his assurance that if, on further consideration in Committee, it does become necessary to put a Clause in the Bill safeguarding the rights of the local authorities, he will readily assent to such proposal. The local authorities are a little doubtful whether they will be in as good a position in future when the Telegraph Acts are applied as they are at the present time. This is a Committee point. The right hon. Gentleman's assurances are so comprehensive that it is not necessary for me to detain the House further.
Question put, and agreed to.
Bill read a Second time.
"That the Bill be committed to a Select Committee of Five Members, Three to be nominated by the House and Two by the Committee of Selection."
"That all Petitions against the Bill presented Five clear days before the meeting of the Committee be referred to the Committee; that the Petitioners praying to be heard by themselves, their Counsel, or Agents, be heard against the Bill, and Counsel or Agents heard in support of the Bill."
"That the Committee have power to send for persons, papers, and records."
"That Three be the quorum."—[Mr. Kellaway.]